January 1, 2007 marked the end of the latest and largest wave of European Union (EU) enlargement, when Bulgaria and Romania followed in the footsteps of ten other countries in joining the EU. Accession has been understood as a triumph for the EU’s “strongest foreign policy tool” of encouraging liberal democratic reform along and beyond its borders. Yet understanding enlargement in this way only tells one part of the story.
The question of how far enlargement should continue remains an important contemporary debate: while the EU is in accession negotiations with a number of countries, there are many more who seek membership, and with whom the EU hopes to encourage reform without membership. And whilst some states have been successfully ‘socialized’, others have not (62). This asymmetry provides the point of departure for this book. International Socialization in Europe assesses when and where Western organizations, such as the Council of Europe (CE), the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE), the EU, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO), had an impact on the transformation of Europe. ‘International socialization’ as a phenomenon has become the marker for empirically measuring Western-inspired institutional reform from the assumption of its primacy.
Schimmelfennig et al. argue that of the aforementioned organizations, the EU and NATO have been the primary socializers because they have been consistent, non-partial and non-discriminatory towards candidate countries (53); they have rewarded compliance in a meritocratic fashion (52); and they offer tangible material benefits to their members which corroborates a rationalist approach.
Such organizational characteristics underline why the EU and NATO are the only bodies capable of “rule-conforming political change” (54). This ambitious and methodologically sophisticated study offers a contribution to the ongoing debates of International Relations, Comparative Politics, international reform and development, European integration and enlargement, conditionality, and the future of EU non-membership strategies. It includes and bridges diverse case studies from geographically distinct areas.
It studies socialization not only by examining institutions, but also by looking at other processes and conditions, particularly those in the domestic arena. The book is divided into sixteen chapters; the first four provide a theoretical and contextual framework of socialization as a process, and present the research design deployed in the book. The subsequent nine chapters present country-specific case studies of Belarus, Yugoslavia (Serbia), Turkey, Slovakia, Romania, Estonia, Latvia, Northern Cyprus, and Montenegro – each culpable of systematic violations of constitutive liberal norms.
The authors further divide these case studies into three categories of party constellations: liberal party constellation states, mixed party constellation states, and anti-liberal party constellation states. Schimmelfennig et al. posit that international socialization will be effective and rapid in liberal constellation states, slower and less consistent in mixed-constellation states, and incompatible in non-liberal constellation states where the only prospect for progress has been possible after regime change has occurred (257).
These party constellations go some way in explaining the inconsistency of the socialization process. The final three chapters assess the case studies through an application of Ragin’s Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) and also include a study on the dynamics of socialization, and the book’s overall conclusions. There selected cases show significant variation. Although some states were either members of the Soviet Union (i.e. Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia) or of the Warsaw Pact (i.e. Hungary, Poland, (then) Czechoslovakia), others remained outside the Soviet sphere and were politically part of the West. Similarly, these countries differ both in their violation of normative rules and in their subsequent transitions. The authors bring these diverse countries together in an assessment of conditions that arose irrespective of external systemic causes.
While it is useful to understand common features of socialization and their predictive force, there is also potential criticism in uniting such diverse countries. There must be reasons why ‘outside’ conditions are relevant; QCA is certainly prone to these criticisms. QCA can be an excellent research method for studying conjunctural causation in a large number of case studies, but there remains the potential that certain causal factors are absent from this analytical approach.
The dichotomous nature of variables leaves the study vulnerable to a loss of information. In addition, not knowing the frequency of any particular combination of causes and outcomes may mean that a systemic altering event receives undue analytical weight. This study identifies fifty causes (231), but there are likely many more and it remains to be seen as to whether or not this is the most effective analytical method available, or if, alternatively, a comparative analysis employing a rigorous research methodology could be more appropriate.
The authors are, however, aware of the potential shortcomings of their research method, and their work is strengthened by this recognition. An EU or NATO membership perspective is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for inducing compliance with Western norms. Only where the domestic power costs of compliance were low was the adoption of Western demands successful. Where compliance implied a regime change or interference of the incumbent government, the EU and NATO offer was insufficient to balance the domestic costs of acquiescence, save for when it was used to begin or conclude accession agreements.
Countries failing to approach the Western liberal democratic model are not punished. Rather, they are simply excluded from the benefits and protections of EU and NATO membership until such a time that they have reconsidered the domestic price of compliance, so the impetus for change must come from within. The authors, in their conclusion, stress the need for NATO and the EU to back up their rewards-based strategy to aid recalcitrant and struggling countries, and for the need of NGOs to help in the process.
The conclusion highlights that EU and NATO membership perspectives can be successful at ‘locking in’ reforms in liberal and mixed party constellation countries, but that EU and NATO membership are not, however, the ultimate panacea. Certain anti-liberal party constellation states cannot be effectively socialized and a country must be located within Europe to be able to reap the benefits of membership. These conditions drastically limit the international potential of socialization insofar as the European Neighbourhood Policy, partnerships and associational or other agreements excluding membership are concerned.
The authors do not mention the current debate about the need for deepening before widening, or how the EU will avail itself of its enlargement fatigue. The point is clear: the EU will have to get over these fears in the near future, because it has again reaffirmed that the EU’s strongest foreign policy tool is membership, and that the Western international community is only able to ensure these reforms with credible membership perspectives, and moderate domestic costs of compliance. As for the immediate future, the authors stress the EU’s need to act swiftly with respect to the Ukraine and Georgia if they wish to have an impact upon political conditionality and democratic change.
This is an excellent book with powerful arguments. Straightforward in both its composition and its structure, it offers a concise and methodologically sound approach to the study of socialization of countries bordering the enlarged EU, recognizing the unique nature of Europe as a densely institutionalized liberal international community: a must-read for anyone with an interest in EU enlargement or the relations between the EU and its Eastern Neighbours.